Radar

Performing a tribute to a great artist is always a tricky business. You don’t want to imitate, but you do want to show how much you’ve been inspired by the artist you’re celebrating. You're thanking the artist for all the echoes of the artist in your own voice. And that’s what so lovingly resounds in the voice of Lauren Kinhan on A Sleepin’ Bee, her tribute to Nancy Wilson. 

With roots firmly in jazz and blues, tinged with a pop sensibility,  guitarist Larry Carlton has appeared on hundreds of recordings. In addition to his own, he has added just the right touch to the recorded works of Steely Dan, Bobby Bland, The Crusaders and Quincy Jones, in addition to the multi-platinum jazz group Fourplay. On Lights On, Carlton's six strings meet up with Europe's SWR Big Band for a live date full of originals, some Miles, Steely Dan and more.

Sandrine Lee

The commonplace exercise of hailing a New York City cab became a career-threatening situation for guitarist Mike Stern last year. Tripping over some construction debris, he broke both arms, also sustaining significant nerve damage in a freak accident that halted his world-class career.

Chris Drukker

Dave Stryker's recent efforts have been jazz hits. His two Eight Track albums, and a salute to former employer Stanley Turrentine, have earned this guitarist new fans while giving him plenty of room to move. Strykin' Ahead is Dave's new date, and it puts him in the studio with organist Jared Gold, vibraphonist Steve Nelson and drummer McClenty Hunter, who proved to be such a hip combination on Eight Track II.

Saxophonist Eric Alexander wrote the tune "Iron Man"as a salute to Harold Mabern. It's one of 10 tracks on that Memphis-born pianist's new recording, To Love And Be Loved.

The album features Mabern with Alexander, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, bassist Nat Reeves and percussionist Cyro Baptista. It also reunites the pianist with legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb; these two giants played together briefly in Miles Davis' band in 1963.

Jacob Blickenstaff

John Pizzarelli played an “Invitation” series at the Montreal Jazz Festival earlier this month, including a tribute to the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim, joined by Jobim’s grandson Daniel.  John has been a regular at the jazzfest since 1990 and, John said, “the Bossa Nova concert a dozen years ago was my favorite.

Pianist Ahmad Jamal started his career as a child prodigy, moving on to quartets and then trios as his main voice for expression. The world would know about Ahmad with the 1958 LP Live At The Pershing, featuring the runaway jukebox hit "Poinciana." At 86, Ahmad Jamal is still expressing a vibrancy — this time with a love letter to an iconic city in Southern France, pulled together with longtime bassist James Cammack, drummer Herlin Riley and worldly percussionist Manolo Badrena.

Inside the front cover of saxophonist Walt Weiskopf’s new album, there’s a quote from writer Pearl S. Buck: “To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.” For Weiskopf, keeping young has meant exploring a wide vocabulary of styles – from big bands to Frank Sinatra to his long-running gig with Steely Dan. Fountain of Youth  finds him leading a tight quintet with vibist Behn Gillece, pianist Peter Zak, bassist Mike Karn and drummer Steve Fidyk.

With Live At The Bistro, trumpeter Sean Jones realizes a lifelong dream of capturing his musical experience live. The results range from a torch lighter to a post-bop mover, from a down-home blues to a sanctified shouter. Jones has creative assistance from what he calls “a combination of essential forces of spiritual energy and group synergy” — which is to say, pianist Orrin Evans, saxophonist Brian Hogans, bassist Luques Curtis and drummers Obed Calvaire and Mark Whitfield, Jr.

With his first recording 30 years ago, we learned about "Net Man" — bassist Charnett Moffett. On Music From Our Soul, he revisits some of the feelings of those three decades, enlisting master saxophonist and flutist Pharoah Sanders, inventive guitarist Stanley Jordan, soulful pianist Cyrus Chestnut and drummers Jeff "Tain" Watts, Mike Clark and Victor Lewis.

On Zenith, Michael Wolff approaches the solo piano encounter with masterly mischief, attitude and gratitude for those who came before, including John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Jerome Kern. He also looks to present-day artists like Sufjan Stevens, makes a homegrown nod to New Orleans, and toasts his wife, noted actress and director Polly Draper.

Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson has always had his light  shine through whatever inspiration might strike: what would post-bop feel like wedded to Motown? Why is Johnny Hodges so hip? His musical I Have A Dream project.  After all, he was a Jazz Messenger. One of Blakey's musical scribes. Seems natural that Made In America, Watson's new album, would embrace a broad view of historic African-American achievement.

 

 

When Christian Sands was 12 years old, Dr. Billy Taylor was already telling folks about this young pianist who had a presence in the music like he'd already been here once. Christian McBride felt it too, and made Sands a core member of his Grammy-winning trio.

The key for Sands is in the title of his new album, Reach. And it's in his playing, which grabs your attention with his every intention.

Guitarist Kevin Eubanks' creative power can guide his guitar into the center of any attention: home-cooked Philly funk, a jam at Bradley's, a beautiful duet recording and tour with Stanley Jordan, a power fusion encounter with Dave Holland. And of course a 15-year bandleader on The Tonight Show

His new album, East West Time Line, demonstrates how music can feel when it's not only intelligent and engaging but also steeped in what Lester Bowie called "serious fun."

Dayna Stephens' saxophone playing is vigorous, edge-walking and full of soulful imaginative expressions — a place where a listener gets to journey and Stephens finds answers. Gratitude is a beautiful follow up to his 2014 album, Peace. Returning are pianist Brad Mehldau, guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland. There's one Stephens composition, "The Timbre of Gratitude," along with interpretations of Billy Strayhorn (where Stephens shares a beautiful baritone), Pat Metheny and others.

Pianist Billy Childs has demonstrated a range of creative skills — as a pianist with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson and Dianne Reeves; as the composer of masterly chamber jazz experiences; as a bandleader and arranger paying tribute to singer-songwriter Laura Nyro.

With Four in One, its sophomore effort, Heads Of State puts its money where its mouth is. As the album’s title suggests, this is a band that presents a unified front even as it showcases the individual talents of pianist Larry Willis, bassist David Williams, saxophonist Gary Bartz and drummer Al Foster.

Coco Montoya is the Sherman Tank of blues guitar.  Powerful. Explosive. Maybe he thunders so much from starting out as a drummer. One of his first gigs was (after a chance encounter) playing drums for blues master Albert Collins. He spent five years on the road with Collins, who taught him to be a guitarist.

Radar: Carmen Lundy

Feb 10, 2017

 

Carmen Lundy never disappoints.  She's a vocalist who seems to have a full understanding of her vocal range and ability and knows how to use it.  Whether on her own albums or as a guest on her brother Curtis Lundy's, Carmen makes every song a personal story that you can relate to. Code Noir talks about love, family, life, and the current affairs of the world, topics we all find ourselves having in our day to day.  

What they sing is harder than it sounds. Much harder. And always swinging. When the three singers of Duchess — Amy Cervini, Melissa Stylianou, Hilary Gardner — sing in the style and spirit of the Boswell Sisters, the harmonizing trio from New Orleans, popular especially on the radio in the 30’s, they articulate each note of the melody, each word of the lyric, often almost supersonically. Really, really, really fast! And in perfect harmony! And having a helluva lotta fun!

Elvin Bishop called his first Alligator album Big Fun.  Aptly-titled. He’s always having fun. And his newest Alligator album continues in the same spirit, Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio. He was having so much fun jamming with a couple of friends, guitarist/pianist Bob Welch and percussionist/singer Willy Jordan, that they became a band.

It’s an album I have been waiting for since seeing drummer Nate Smith a decade back with Stefon Harris  & Blackout.  He comes from  the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program,  has recorded & played with saxophonists Chris Potter, Ravi Coltrane, bassist Dave Holland and singer Jose James ,  toured with singer Joe Jackson and co-wrote  & produced “Heaven Can Wait” for Michael Jackson’s 2001 Invincible album.

The first time I saw guitarist Yotam Silberstein perform he was part of the Jimmy Heath Big Band, and he was just Yotam. Before that, however, the legendary  James Moody had returned from a jazz workshop, telling anyone who would listen about "this young Israeli kid who plays like an old man!" The Moody compliment has depth as listeners have discovered on 4 previous releases comfort with the works of John Lewis, Clifford Brown and Joe Henderson, and a love for Brazil and Latin music, resulting in attention getting performances with Paquito D'Rivera and Monty Alexander.

In the liner notes for "Infinitude", the new recording from sisters Ingrid and Christine Jensen, it's called "Nordicity", an organic description of the trumpeter and saxophonist.  I don't know about all that, but our own beloved and well lived Michael Bourne admires the absolute musical creativity which emerges from a seemingly casual environment. "Infinitude" - the state or quality of being infinite or having no limit. What a gift for the jazz musician, and here, they achieve fliight.

Victor Provost started his  musical life in the Virgin Islands, steel drumming along with the horn players he heard on his father's Cannonball Adderley, Chick Corea and Joao Gilberto  records. He studied hard, toured with Paquito D'Rivera, came to the U.S. intent on blending his Island Roots with jazz.

His success  is "Bright Eyes", a new recording, alongside pianist Alex Brown, brother Zach on bass, drummer Billy Williams, Jr. There's a most impressive guest list too, including Paquito D'Rivera, vibist Joe Locke, trumpeter Etiennne Charles and saxophonist Ron Blake.

Pianist Art Hirahara has a diverse resume, spending time  with Charlie Haden, Vincent Herring, Stacey Kent, Dave Douglas and Jenny Scheinman, in addition to recordings of his own dating back to 2000. Art has also studied West African drumming , influences that are part of the palette. His sound is clean, techniquely astute but exploring.

The genre known as Soul Jazz was responsible for bringing legions of fans to jazz, and keeping them satisfied too! Author Bob Porter, in his recently published book, "Soul Jazz" says it's probably the reason many had a radio around in the first place.  One of the powerhouse trio groups was The Three Sounds. Featuring pianist Gene Harris, bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy, standards stood up and moved. Originals guaranteed you'd be back for another listen.

Sometimes out of inexplicable loss, new beginnings are miraculously born. The will to survive sparks a deeper understanding of one’s own strength and spiritual drive. Alto saxophonist Bruce Williams’ Private Thoughts is a testament to this notion.